Homeland Security

17 November 2005

Colombia's Efforts Help Reduce Supply of Narcotics in U.S.

White House official hails bilateral cooperation on drugs

By Lauren Monsen
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The ongoing U.S.-Colombian partnership against the illicit drug trade has succeeded in reducing the availability of cocaine and heroin in the United States, says John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Briefing reporters in Washington on November 17, Walters praised the leadership of Colombia President Alvaro Uribe in tackling a problem that has plagued the Andean nation for decades.  Uribe's stance against traffickers, and against the climate of violence and lawlessness that the drug trade promotes, is paving the way for a better future in Colombia, Walters said.

In connection with those efforts in Colombia, he said, "we have seen, ... for the first time, a decline in the purity of cocaine in the United States" and a corresponding increase in cocaine's price at the retail level. "And we're pleased to announce that -- roughly beginning in February, based on our data of sampling inside the United States -- there was a change in availability of cocaine."

The reduced availability of cocaine in the United States mirrors a similar trend that the ONDCP announced "several weeks ago," Walters said.  Analysts have noted a "change in availability of heroin that is produced in Colombia: so-called South American heroin, identified by the nature and characteristic of its chemical processing," he explained.  Recent monitoring, he said, "showed a 30 percent increase in [heroin's] price and 22 percent decrease in purity between 2003 and 2004," reflecting a decline in the overall heroin supply in the United States.

The decrease in available purity of both cocaine and heroin is important, but so is the fact that "about 80 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States ... is consumed by roughly 10 percent" of users, Walters observed.  This pattern of consumption means that "an addict base is the necessary underpinning of every substance of abuse," he told reporters.

The ONDCP has a long record of support for public-education and intervention programs to help stem the tide of first-time casual drug users, thereby reducing the pool of potential addicts.  Walters cited new data that indicate a downward trend in entry-point drug use, which further consolidates the recent success of supply-reduction efforts.

CROP ERADICATION, RECORD SEIZURES REDUCE COCAINE’S AVAILABILITY

Colombia's aggressive efforts to eradicate illegal drug crops are an essential component in this success, he emphasized.

Statistics from 2003 and 2004 reveal that while "actual [crop] cultivation didn't decline" in Colombia, the Uribe administration's aerial spraying campaign to eradicate drug crops has forced many illicit producers to replant their crops and has reduced cocaine production levels demonstrably, Walters said.  So "there was a significant decline in the ability to produce cocaine in Colombia," he said.  "That translated into a decline in the production of cocaine worldwide."

Seizures of cocaine by law enforcement authorities also have contributed to the decline in availability.  "We have had historic and record seizures of cocaine in the transit area" en route to the United States, said Walters.  "We're [now] seizing over 400 metric tons of cocaine based on a market that ... is about 700 tons overall, in some cases."

In sum, "what we're announcing today is that [the U.S.-Colombian partnership] has substantially changed the vitality" of the illicit drug trade, said Walters.  "Our challenge is to follow through.  We're not done."  But in reducing the availability of cocaine and heroin in the United States, and in disrupting the production capacity of illegal coca farming in Colombia, "what we have shown today is [that] those who have been preaching that this is not possible -- those who believe that supply control is inevitably doomed to failure, those who have [argued] that we ought to forget about trying to protect our citizens and live with the consequences of substance abuse -- are wrong."

A transcript of the briefing is available on the Foreign Press Center Web site.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Colombia.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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